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How Do 2018’s Seniors Stack up to the Best Non-NCAA Champions of the 2000’s

sorenson,jordan,coon

photos courtesy of Richard Immel; Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors

A subject that I have studied extensively and come back to every year is the “Best Non-NCAA Champions” at the DI level. Every year there is a new crop of seniors who end up falling short of their goals to become NCAA champions and put themselves in contention for this list that nobody strives to attain. It’s not my intention to make light of this, rather celebrate the excellent collegiate careers that these wrestlers have put together. Only ten wrestlers each year get to call themselves NCAA champions. Three seniors this season stood out as candidates who could make it onto my list of the “Best Non-NCAA Champions of the 2000’s,” and they are Brandon Sorensen (Iowa), Bo Jordan (Ohio State) and Adam Coon (Michigan). So what I have done is dissect each and every match of these wrestlers careers and compare them to a group of wrestlers whom I already have labeled as the top 15 Non-NCAA champions of the 2000’s. I was able to whittle down a list of 35-40 potential wrestlers to my current 15 which are: Thomas Gilman (2017), Robert Hamlin (2013), Mack Lewnes (2011), Lance Palmer (2010), Craig Brester (2010), Mike Poeta (2009), Eric Tannenbaum (2008), Sam Hazewinkel (2007), Nick Simmons (2007), Chris Fleeger (2006), Jake Percival (2005), Jon Trenge (2005), Tyrone Lewis (2004), Ryan Lewis (2003), Bryan Snyder (2002).

Ground Rules: I always like to lay out the rationale associated with this list, as well as the eligibility for potential candidates, to avoid questions later. This list will include wrestlers that competed at any time after and including the year 2000. This seemed like a good year to start because the weights were shifted to their current position. It also just sounds better…best since 2000, compared to best since 1990 or something similar. I only considered collegiate careers, so anything post-collegiate is not recognized. Otherwise James Green, for instance, would probably be on my list. Henry Cejudo is not eligible either. My personal preference for this list is guys that have had consistent four-year careers, rather than one or two exceptional years. That isn’t always the case, but more often than not, I’ll go for the longer, more consistent careers.

Here are some of the stats and figures that I used to research and compile this list, an explanation of their importance and how some of the wrestlers currently on the list factored in at each category.

Career Record – This one is pretty self-explanatory and pretty easy to understand. I did take into consideration and graded on a curve with freshman seasons. For instance, Lance Palmer lost 33 matches in his career, yet 14 of those came as a freshman who did not redshirt while wrestling in a very tough 149 lb weight class. He was also a competitor in perhaps the most stacked weight class ever (2008); therefore he took a couple more losses than usual.

Career Losses – I went through each through each wrestlers career and found out every match that they lost. Craig Brester lost 21 career matches; however six of those came to Jake Varner, and eight came to a wrestler who would become an NCAA champion, in that same season (Varner x6, Phil Davis, Josh Glenn).

NCAA Placement – Another one that doesn’t need a whole lot of explanation. How did they finish at the biggest tournament, that everyone remembers? You’ll notice that about half of my list is four-time All-Americans, so that isn’t a requirement.

NCAA Seeds – Generally I think this gives a reasonable explanation of how good a wrestler was throughout a particular season. NCAA placement carries more weight, rightfully so, but if a wrestler was always the best in his weight class for four-plus months, that should count for something, right? Mack Lewnes twice came into the NCAA tournament as an undefeated one seed. I’m also checking to see how a wrestler did in reference to his seed, did he wrestle up to it, below it?

Conference Placement – This can typically go hand-in-hand with NCAA seeding, but how did a wrestler perform historically in his conference tournament. Of course, our friends in the Big Ten tend to get more credit for a title and less taken away from them with a loss or two at the Big Ten Championships. Nick Simmons was a three-time Big Ten champion. Since 2000, Simmons and Ryan Churella are the only two three-time Big Ten champions that did not win an NCAA title.

Regular Season Tournament Placing – What else do you have to pad the resume? I looked mainly at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, Midlands, and Southern Scuffle. How many did a wrestler win, or how high did he place at any or all of these? Going back to Lewnes, he won three championships at both Las Vegas and the Scuffle.

Losses to Eventual Champ at Nationals – Did a wrestler have lousy timing and get matched up with a stud that had their number (Brester/Varner) or did they lose in the first round to an unseeded guy that doesn’t place? Sam Hazewinkel is the only member of my list that lost to the eventual NCAA champion every year at nationals (Paul Donahoe, Joe Dubuque x2, Jason Powell).

Career Losses to Top-Five Placers (Same Season Only) – Now looking at that list of losses, who did them come to? This is one where there is some room for error. Plenty of studs don’t finish in the top five each year, but I’ll also counter that with there are also quite a few guys each year that place top-five unexpectedly, so it may even out. Again, were there weird losses to lesser ranked guys throughout the year? Was everyone that beat this wrestler an absolute hammer? Chris Fleeger only had nine career losses. Six of those came at the hands of an NCAA finalist, in that same season. A digging deeper, one of his nine career losses was a disqualification, so basically, six of eight career losses were to NCAA finalists.

Wins over Top-Five Placers (Same Season Only) – As with the previous category, there is some room for error with this. The more significant takeaway is that wrestlers don’t beat as many studs at this level (top-five) as you would think. One of the wrestlers whose career I examined, but didn’t make the cut was Cal Poly’s Boris Novachkov. Over his four-year career, Boris only has five wins over top-five place winners, in that same season, and none over eventual NCAA finalists. On the other hand, in the 2009 season when Mack Lewnes went 0-2 at the NCAA, he defeated both eventual NCAA finalists (Jarrod King and Andrew Howe), the third-place finisher (Ryan Morningstar), the fourth-place finisher (Jon Reader), and the fifth-place finisher (Andy Rendos) twice.

Wins over Eventual NCAA Champions (Same Season Only) – Did they ever beat an NCAA champion the same year he won a title? That’s a pretty good indicator of whether he could have been an NCAA champion or not. One of the reasons why Jon Trenge is at the top of my list is that as a freshman he defeated both NCAA finalists (Mark Munoz and Pat Quirk) and did so again as a senior (Jake Rosholt and Sean Stender). That senior season he beat Rosholt twice.

 

So let’s take a look at how Brandon Sorensen, Bo Jordan, and Adam Coon stack up in these categories:

Brandon Sorensen (Iowa)

Career Record: 127-17

2018 Losses:

Zain Retherford (Penn State)  6-2; Dual Meet

Zain Retherford (Penn State)  2-0; Big Ten’s

Ronnie Perry (Lock Haven)     3-2; NCAA’s

Matt Kolodzik (Princeton)        7-3; NCAA’s

2017 Losses:

Anthony Collica (Oklahoma State)  4-3TB; Dual Meet

Zain Retherford (Penn State)          9-8TB; Dual Meet

Patricio Lugo (Edinboro)                 7-5SV; Dual Meet

Micah Jordan (Ohio State)                   2-0: Big Ten’s

Zain Retherford (Penn State)      Fall 2:37; NCAA’s

2016 Losses:

Zain Retherford (Penn State)   4-0; Big Ten’s

Zain Retherford (Penn State)  10-0; NCAA’s

2015 Losses:

Brody Grothus (Iowa)               3-2; Luther Open

David Habat (Edinboro)            3-2; Midlands

Drake Houdashelt (Missouri)    2-1; National Duals

Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern)    2-1; Big Ten’s

CJ Cobb (Penn)                        4-3; NCAA’s

Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern)    3-1SV; NCAA’s

NCAA Placement:

2018 (5th), 2017 (3rd), 2016 (2nd), 2015 (4th)

NCAA Seeds:

2018 (2nd), 2017 (5th), 2016 (2nd), 2015 (4th)

Big Ten Placement:

2018 (2nd), 2017 (3rd), 2016 (2nd), 2015 (2nd)

Regular Season Tournament Placing:

Midlands

2017 (1st), 2016 (1st), 2015 (1st), 2014 (3rd), 2013 (3rd)

Losses to Eventual Champ at Nationals:

2017 (Zain Retherford), 2016 (Zain Retherford)

Career Losses to Top-Five Placers (Same Season Only) 13 of 17 career losses

2018 (Zain Retherford x2, Ronnie Perry, Matt Kolodzik)

2017 (Zain Retherford x2, Micah Jordan)

2016 (Zain Retherford x2)

2015 (David Habat, Drake Houdashelt, Jason Tsirtsis x2)

2018 Wins over Eventual Top-Five Placers (Same Season Only)

None

2017 Wins over Eventual Top-Five Placers (Same Season Only)

Micah Jordan (Ohio State)  2-0; Dual Meet

Micah Jordan (Ohio State)  3-0; NCAA’s

Micah Jordan (Ohio State)  4-0; NCAA’s

2016 Wins over Eventual Top-Five Placers (Same Season Only)

Anthony Collica (Oklahoma State)  6-1; Dual Meet

Anthony Collica (Oklahoma State)  4-2; NCAA’s

2015 Wins over Eventual Top-Five Placers (Same Season Only)

Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern)  3-2TB; Dual Meet

Career Wins over Eventual NCAA Champion (Same Season Only)

None

Sorensen’s Summary: At first glance, without doing any of the research I thought that Sorensen was a stone cold lock to be on this list. After seeing the results, I have to think again. Obviously, with Zain Retherford in the picture, he was a huge hurdle that Brandon could never cross, a 0-6 career record. My instincts and my eyes tell me that if Zain is not around, he probably gets at least one title. What makes me hesitant is the lack of big wins against top-five finishers at nationals. Now Brandon gets hurt by the fact that Jason Tsirtsis was seeded highly in 2016 and did not place.

 

Bo Jordan (Ohio State)

Career Record: 88-14

2018 Losses:

Zahid Valencia (Arizona State)   9-4; Dual Meet

Zahid Valencia (Arizona State)   9-6; Las Vegas

Mark Hall (Penn State)               6-4; Dual Meet

Myles Amine (Michigan)             6-5; Dual Meet

Myles Amine (Michigan)      Fall 5:30; Big Ten’s

Daniel Lewis (Missouri)                3-1; NCAA’s

Myles Amine (Michigan)               6-2; NCAAs

2017 Losses:

Brian Realbuto (Cornell)              3-2; Dual Meet

Mark Hall (Penn State)                5-2; NCAA’s

2016 Losses:

Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin)    6-4; Dual Meet

Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin)    3-1; Big Ten’s

Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin)    5-4; NCAA’s

2015 Losses:

Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin)              3-2; Big Ten’s

Alex Dieringer (Oklahoma State)   6-1; NCAA

NCAA Placement:

2018 (5th), 2017 (2nd), 2016 (3rd), 2015 (3rd)

NCAA Seeds:

2018 (6th), 2017 (3rd), 2016 (3rd), 2015 (5th)

Big Ten Placement:

2018 (3rd), 2017 (1st), 2016 (2nd), 2015 (2nd)

Regular Season Tournament Placing:

Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational

2017 (2nd)

Losses to Eventual Champ at Nationals:

2017 (Mark Hall), 2015 (Alex Dieringer)

Career Losses to Top-Five Placers (Same Season Only) 13 of 14 career losses

2018 (Zahid Valencia x2, Mark Hall, Myles Amine x3, Daniel Lewis)

2017 (Brian Realbuto, Mark Hall)

2016 (Isaac Jordan x3)

2015 (Alex Dieringer)

2018 Wins over Eventual Top-Five Placers (Same Season Only)

Myles Amine (Michigan)  6-4; Las Vegas

2017 Wins over Eventual Top-Five Placers (Same Season Only)

Myles Amine (Michigan)      14-8; Big Ten’s

Mark Hall (Penn State)     6-4SV; Big Ten’s

Brian Realbuto (Cornell)      11-7; NCAA

2016 Wins over Eventual Top-Five Placers (Same Season Only)

Daniel Lewis (Missouri)        6-4; Dual Meet

Steven Rodrigues (Illinois)   6-3; Dual Meet

Steven Rodrigues (Illinois)  10-2; Big Ten’s

Steven Rodrigues (Illinois)  10-2; Big Ten’s

Daniel Lewis (Missouri)        9-7; NCAA’s

2015 Wins over Eventual Top-Five Placers (Same Season Only)

Taylor Walsh (Indiana)     6-4SV: Dual Meet

Nick Sulzer (Virginia)            6-2: NCAA’s

Jackson Morse (Illinois)  Fall 1:00: NCAA’s

Career Wins over Eventual NCAA Champion (Same Season Only)

2017 Mark Hall (Penn State)  6-4SV; Big Ten’s

Jordan’s Summary: The first thing sticks out is the win-loss record. Usually, I don’t like to pay too much attention to it, but it is brought down by seven losses as a senior. As we all know though, Bo battled foot injuries throughout his collegiate career and missed a lot of mat time and therefore a lot of time to pad his win-loss record, along with Cliff Keen titles. One thing I never noticed until I did this research was that Jordan always wrestled up to or exceeded his NCAA seeding, which is pretty rare. Another thing that stands out is that 13 of his 14 career losses came to wrestlers who finished top-five or above. He didn’t have any off days and lost to opponents on a different level from him. The one loss to a wrestler that was not a top-five finisher was his freshman season to his cousin Isaac, who would go on to finish seventh. Isaac would account for four of his 14 losses. Finally, we have the win over eventual champion Mark Hall at the Big Tens. I’m sure as the years go on, that win will end up looking even better based on the conclusion of Mark’s career.

 

Adam Coon (Michigan)

Career Record: 116-15

2018 Losses:

Kyle Snyder (Ohio State)  4-2SV; Big Ten’s

Kyle Snyder (Ohio State)   3-2; NCAA’s

2016 Losses:

Ty Walz (Virginia Tech)            3-2; National Duals

Kyle Snyder (Ohio State)         7-4; Big Ten’s

Nick Gwiazdowski (NC State)  3-2; NCAA’s

2015 Losses:

Ty Walz (Virginia Tech)                    5-3; Las Vegas

Austin Marsden (Oklahoma State)  7-4; Southern Scuffle

Connor Medbery (Wisconsin)         7-3; Dual Meet

Mike McMullan (Northwestern)       7-6; Big Ten’s

Nick Gwiazdowski (NC State)         7-6; NCAA’s

2014 Losses:

Mike McClure (Michigan State)      5-1; Dual Meet

Jon Gingrich  (Penn State)      3-1SV; Big Ten’s

Nick Tavanello (Ohio State)            6-5; Big Ten’s

Bobby Telford (Iowa)                   3-2TB; NCAA’s

Jeremy Johnson (Ohio)               3-1SV; NCAA’s

NCAA Placement:

2018 (2nd), 2016 (3rd), 2015 (2nd), 2014 (DNP)

NCAA Seeds:

2018 (2nd), 2016 (5th), 2015 (6th), 2014 (4th)

Big Ten Placement:

2018 (2nd), 2016 (2nd), 2015 (3rd), 2014 (9th)

Regular Season Tournament Placing:

Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational

2017 (1st), 2014 (3rd), 2013 (1st)

Midlands

2013 (1st)

Southern Scuffle

2015 (2nd)

Losses to Eventual Champ at Nationals:

2018 (Kyle Snyder), 2015 (Nick Gwiazdowski)

Career Losses to Top-Five Placers (Same Season Only) 10 of 15 career losses

2018 (Kyle Snyder x2)

2016 (Ty Walz, Kyle Snyder, Nick Gwiazdowski)

2015 (Connor Medbery, Mike McMullan, Nick Gwiazdowski)

2014 (Mike McClure, Bobby Telford)

2018 Wins over Eventual Top-Five Placers (Same Season Only)

Sam Stoll (Iowa)   3-2; Dual Meet

Kyle Snyder (Ohio State)  3-1; Dual Meet

Sam Stoll (Iowa) Fall 2:13; Big Ten’s

Amarveer Dhesi (Oregon State)  4-2; NCAA’s

2016 Wins over Eventual Top-Five Placers (Same Season Only)

Amarveer Dhesi (Oregon State)   6-3; Dual

Amarveer Dhesi (Oregon State)  Fall :48; NCAA’s

Ty Walz (Virginia Tech)  Fall 7:57; NCAA’s

2015 Wins over Eventual Top-Five Placers (Same Season Only)

Bobby Telford (Iowa)   3-1TB; Dual Meet

Connor Medbery (Wisconsin)  5-2; Big Ten’s

Mike McMullan (Northwestern)  3-1SV; NCAA’s

2014 Wins over Eventual Top-Five Placers (Same Season Only)

Nick Gwiazdowski (NC State)  3-1SV; Las Vegas

Bobby Telford  (Iowa) 3-2; Midlands

Tony Nelson (Minnesota)  4-2SV; Dual Meet

Bobby Telford (Iowa)  1-0TB; Dual Meet

Career Wins over Eventual NCAA Champion (Same Season Only)

2018 Kyle Snyder (Ohio State), 2014 Nick Gwiazdowski (NC State)

Coon’s Summary: Aside from his late-season freshman slump, which can be excused as a heavyweight wrestling as a true freshman in the Big Ten, Coon’s has a great argument to be included. The most significant factor that stands out is the win as a senior over Kyle Snyder. There isn’t much more that needs to be said about that. He also defeated Nick Gwiazdowski in his first title season, while as a true freshman. That same season he also beat the two-time defending champion, Tony Nelson. His senior season would have had even more high-quality wins had Tanner Hall replicated his 2017 season. He also gets credit for defeating an older Mike McMullan. Though Mike was not on my top 15 list, he was previously the top heavyweight of the 2000’s without a title.

Who Makes the Cut:

Coon: We’ll start off with the easiest one. Adam is in. Three-time top three finisher, a two-time finalist, the big wins over Snyder, Gwiazdowski, Nelson, and McMullan. He will knock Jake Percival out, who was previously number 15 on the list.

Jordan: I went back and forth on this one, but I think Jordan is in, as well. He’s had the luck of being in the same weight class as Alex Dieringer, Zahid Valencia, and Mark Hall, and did get that win over Hall, which gave him a Big Ten title as well. He also went through four years of Big Ten competition with no real “bad losses.” He will go onto the top 15 list and move Ryan Lewis, another guy who didn’t get four full years of competition out.

Sorensen: This was the toughest one for me. As I mentioned before, my initial instinct was that he is among the top 15 non-NCAA champions from the 2000’s. After looking deeper into it, I say he just misses. His lack of big wins as a senior is a hindrance, as are no Big Ten titles and no wins over NCAA champions during title years. It’s also about who I have on the list already, and I don’t feel good about taking any of them off the list. So, Sorensen sits just outside the top 15.

Revised List of Best Non-NCAA Champions of the 2000’s:

Adam Coon (Michigan), Bo Jordan (Ohio State), Thomas Gilman (Iowa), Robert Hamlin (Lehigh), Mack Lewnes (Cornell), Lance Palmer (Ohio State), Craig Brester (Nebraska), Mike Poeta (Illinois), Eric Tannenbaum (Michigan), Sam Hazewinkel (Oklahoma), Nick Simmons (Michigan State), Chris Fleeger (Purdue) Jon Trenge (Lehigh), Tyrone Lewis (Oklahoma State), Bryan Snyder (2002).

 

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